Monthly Archives: July 2010

John Gapper

Everyone makes mistakes but some mistakes are bigger than others and some are emblematic. On the latter scale, Apple’s problem with the iPhone 4 counts as a big error.

The iPhone 4 flaw, according to Consumer Reports and others, is that phone reception is degraded or lost when a user’s hand covers the bottom left of the antenna that encircles the device.

It is, in other words, a problem of industrial design for which Apple has a justly high reputation. Read more

John Gapper

The flurry of activity around Playboy Enterprises, owner of the eponymous magazine, illustrates the squeeze on men’s magazines and pornography in the internet era.

It also shows that Playboy is a media brand that is well past its prime.

Hugh Hefner, whose bid to take Playboy private is being challenged by FriendFinder Networks, the owner of Penthouse magazine, founded Playboy in 1953, astutely foreseeing the post-war rise of open sexuality.

Yet while some media brands such as Walt Disney have managed to update themselves for new times, Playboy – with its bunny girls and associations of the swinging sixties – is now archaic. Read more

John Gapper

Avandia, the GlaxoSmithKline anti-diabetes drug that could be taken off the market by the US Food and Drug Administration, is yet another illustration of the difficulties facing pharmaceutical companies in refilling their pipelines with blockbuster drugs.

Avandia’s fate seems already to have been sealed, since sales have been dropping since a 2007 study found an associated risk of heart attacks. If it was removed from the market, it would be the highest profile such event since Merck withdrew its painkiller Vioxx in 2004 on similar concerns. Read more

John Gapper

The gulf between US and global sports than today, with the world looking forward to the World Cup football final between the Netherlands and Spain and the US obsessed with LeBron James move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat basketball team.

There are, of course, tussles between sports stars and their teams outside the US and there is anguish over the rise of individualism at the expense of national or team loyalty. Just ask the French football team or, to a lesser extent, the English one. Read more

John Gapper

There is a lot of uncertainty about the stress tests on European banks, the results of which are due to be announced on July 23. The question is whether the tests will be stringent enough to have credibility with investors or will be regarded as a whitewash.

I am not sure the statement issued on Wednesday by the Committee of European Banking Supervisors identifying the banks gives a great indication, but some details in the FT story are reassuring as to the  exercise’s seriousness.

The problem with the exercise is that CEBS is setting central guidelines for the tests but they will be carried out by national supervisors that have conflicts of interest. As I noted the other day, regulators will not want to declare banks undercapitalised if their own governments will have to pick up the bill. Read more

John Gapper

There are few equivalents in business of red carpet reporting – the showbiz practice of standing by the carpet at awards ceremonies and grabbing  words as the celebrities walk by. The Sun Valley media and technology summit, however, is just such an event.

Never having been there (although I did once go to Sun Valley when the Allen & Co annual conference was not in progress), I feel somewhat jealous of the reporters out there in the Idaho countryside.

On the other hand, as a way of obtaining information, it leaves something to be desired. Since the media are not allowed into the conference, they instead stand outside grubbing for morsels. Read more

John Gapper

I’m afraid I don’t believe Alex Bogusky.

Mr Bogusky, arguably the biggest creative name in advertising, has just resigned from MDC Partners, the parent group of Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, the Miami-based agency, saying he has had it with the business.

His Twitter profile now reads:

I worked in advertising for 20+ years. That was fun. Still enjoy culture jamming.

I count his departure as akin to Tom Ford’s resignation from the Gucci Group in 2004 after it was taken over by Pinault-Printemps-Redoute – a case of a world-renowned creative executive departing from the company that he had come to personify. Read more